Chaffin has teamed up with Nashville area native JR Wiest to chase after a track championship at Five Flags in the Outlaw Stock division. It’s an opportunity he is excited to make the most out of, even while admitting he may be a little nervous before Friday’s opener.
“I’m really excited for it. Of course the butterflies are there because you want to do good and there’s a little bit of performance anxiety, I think that’s the technical term for it, since it’s been a couple years,” Chaffin told Speed51. “I don’t think I’ve raced anything on the NASCAR level since 2008, I’ve probably ran seven or eight races at Nashville but they were mostly in the Truck division.”
His last race to date came at Nashville in 2018, one that was previously unplanned. It wasn’t until after qualifying when the decision was made for Chaffin to get in the car for the Pro Late Model feature that night.
“I ran a Pro Late Model race and I think that was in 2018. It was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t even practice or qualify the car, I just jumped in it and started at the back of the field. I finished seventh in that race but I didn’t feel too bad about that with no practice or qualifying or anything. I’ve also ran some Trucks out there and won four or five races in the Truck”
Originally from Smyrna, Tennessee, Chaffin made his name at the Fairgrounds, winning two track championships in the 1990’s. He then moved to the Hooters Pro Cup Series and won in his series debut at the former USA International Speedway. In two full-time years with the series, he won six races and finished second and sixth in series points.
He made over 200 starts in NASCAR’s top-three series from 1993-2008, seeing the bulk of his success in the Truck Series. He won two races in the Trucks while driving for fellow Nashville native Bobby Hamilton in 2004 at Dover and Lucas Oil, the latter of which came after driving from third to first on the final lap to beat Johnny Sauter and Travis Kvapil.
Chaffin’s sons Chase and Chaz started racing careers of their own at Nashville, with the elder Chaffin heavily involved with their exploits. With his kids’ time behind the wheel decreasing in recent years, now was the best opportunity for him to get back behind the wheel on a more regular basis.
“It’s a situation where the last few years we raced at Nashville pretty regularly and my boys were doing most of the driving. Chase got married a few years ago and his racing has curtailed, he moved from Nashville to Knoxville and he runs a business so it was hard for him to race and work on the cars, and Chaz recently got married and they’re expecting so he doesn’t really have the time to dedicate to it.”
“I thought well, I might actually be able to race some again myself and JR called and I think he was asking about what we’re going to do with Chaz and what have you and I said I don’t think he’s planning on racing very much this year but I’m not planning on doing any driving, I’m available. We ended up making the deal for me to drive for him down at Pensacola.”
Chaffin does have past experience at Five Flags Speedway, but his last start at the half-mile came back in the 1994 Snowball Derby. While the track surface has remained the same in the nearly 30 years it’s been since he competed at Five Flags, there is one thing that will still be relatively new to him starting tomorrow night – the walls around the racetrack.
“I’m really excited, I don’t know what to expect. I haven’t raced at Pensacola since the 1994 Snowball Derby. We actually did pretty well, we led some laps in I think either the 1993 or 1994 Derby and qualified in the top-ten. We didn’t race those cars a lot, those were straight rail cars and they were different than our primary car at Nashville. We always kept the straight rail car because there was always five or six races every year that we could go to.”
The first two or three Snowball Derbies I ran in, there was no wall around the track. The last one I ran in was the first year they had the walls. I’m not sure the year but that would give you the timeframe, I only ran in one race with the walls around the track.
While he and JR Wiest have a full run at the Five Flags Speedway Outlaw Stock championship in their crosshairs, their complete schedule will be fluid depending on how the season transpires.
“Our plans are really to just take it as it goes. We’re planning on running the season and we’d like to run for the championship but if things aren’t going good and we tear the car up or something like that, it’s not like we’re obligated. If things go really swell, we might try to race at Mobile or Montgomery. I’m open to racing a bunch as long as we’re doing good and we’re having fun, and I’m sure JR’s in the same boat. We might race five times, we might race 15 times, we really don’t know yet.”
Friday night’s Five Flags Speedway season opener will be broadcasted live on Speed51.TV for premium subscribers. Click here to join today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: JR Wiest Facebook